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Possible Open Innovation Projects at NASA

Following on my post from a couple of weeks ago, and in the spirit of eating your own dogfood, I would like to share some ideas about open innovation at NASA. Please note that the below list is not exhaustive, and that they are just ideas, although some are much further along than others.  Additionally, these ideas are not all mine, although they are coming from my (spacecraft + software) bias. Not only do all the projects below promote transparency in practice (both internally and externally), but it also creates a culture of action and has many positive intended consequences.  However, that is for a different conversation.  Below is a list of ideas that have stuck over the last few years that are both small developments (free) and large initiatives ($900M+).

Internal
•    Interactive x500
•    Side Project App
•    Open Innovation Fund
•    Co-working / Coffee Shop Environment
•    QuickSat
•    Participatory Exploration as a Level 1 requirement
•    Reward Cost Underuns

External
•    Prizes
•    NASA Open Source Agreement (NOSA) Continuous Release Authority
•    NASA Application Programming Interface (API)
•    NASA Advanced Research Projects Agency (NARPA )/ ARPA-N / NIAC++
•    Red Planet Capital
•    X Class Missions + Launch initiative
•    COTS-Alphabet

Further below is a paragraph describing each idea.  I welcome and encourage your comments!

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Open Innovation in Government

ObamaPresident Obama on his second day in office issued a Presidential Memorandum on openness in government.  This is a bold vision of creating a more effective, open government.  The approach outlined in the memo is guided by the core values of transparency, participation and collaboration.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Global Development Commons convened a panel on Tuesday in Washington DC about Open Innovation in Government.  Fortunately, the Global Development Commons streamed it live via www.ustream.com and you can see it archived here. Continued…

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Rainbow Mansion to Choza Overland

Annie, Spence and I will be on the road in less than three weeks. For a number of reasons, we have decided to take the Family/Rainbow Truck (a 1990 GMC Sierra pick-up truck) to the Choza as a second Choza car. Spence is still down in Argentina, but Annie and I had some time yesterday to brainstorm on the outside Rainbow Mansion white board.

apr-11-brainstorm

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Rancho

At the bottom of the steepest hill on the property of La Choza del Mundo is a flat clearing, right at the edge of the jungle and close to the large waterfall. There is a trail leading to this spot, and approximately 40 Pau d’arco trees have been planted in this vacinity in July 2008.
Clearing on La ChozaLarge Waterfall

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NASA Participatory Exploration Policy Recommendations

Participatory Exploration Policy RecommendationsParticipatory Exploration Policy Recommendations for National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Participatory exploration was first introduced in 2007 at the NASA Participatory Exploration Summit at Ames Research Center and was prioritized into the NASA Authorization Act of 2008 (H.R. 6063), highlighting its necessity to NASA’s continued public relevance in the 21st century. We have written a paper for NASA senior management that discusses the role of “participatory exploration” as a way of “aggregating and leveraging people’s contributions in ways that are useful to other people” which can be applied to NASA programs and projects to engage the American public in the exploration experience and to identify opportunities for the direct involvement of the public, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and international partners.  The paper includes specific recommendations which we have summarized below.  We’ve posted the paper on openNASA for your consideration and encourage you to share your thoughts on Participatory Exploration as well. Please share your thoughts via the comments below or on if you have specific ideas or recommendations, via the ideas forum.

Link to Executive Summary

Link to Full Paper

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Focus on Output

NASA has been working toward increasing public understanding of what it does and why it is relevant to the public. NASA has created a message which intends to bring this understanding home and succinctly encapsulate everything that it does. While I am a large advocate for creating a guiding coalition, creating vision, communicating the vision, encourage action and celebrating short-term wins for internal change (see Kotter’s Harvard Business Review Article, “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail“), externally, I believe NASA should focus on output.

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The Last Hubble Servicing Mission

HubbleSTS-125 will be the forth and last Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. Hubble has been able to catch the attention of the general public as the space asset which brings the universe into focus and in times when every last Shuttle mission is needed to complete the Station it was decided to keep Hubble moving forward. While these decisions have been politically heated there still may be some ambivalence and ignorance with respect to the general public. So, how do we get people fired up about this mission? this question was posed to the Next Generation Exploration Conference and they came up with a brand: iHubble. So, goodbye NASA nouns of Hubble, Shuttle, and Station, and hello to verbs like iHubble!

To contribute, please join the brainstorming.

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Repairing Broken Windows

The Broken Windows theory states that the behavior of actors within a particular situation is a function of its external environment. The theory was explored in an article in the March 1982 edition of The Atlantic Monthly where the authors write:

“Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.
Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.”

These examples articulate the power of context within one’s external environment and the sliding scale of socially acceptable behavior. But it isn’t just social behavior, it is behavior in general. Systems thinking states:

“The behavior of a system is a function of its structure.”

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BarCampBlock in Palo Alto

I attended BarCampBlock in Palo Alto yesterday, which could have been the largest BarCamp to date with over 800 people in attendance.

BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from participants. The name BarCamp was inspired as a complement to FooCamp.”

With these unconferences, the attendees are the ones who create the content, and the organizers create the environment. Organizing an unconference does require a similar amount of preparation, but the experience by the attendee and the community which is created is special and inspirational.

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